Monday, September 28, 2009


Today's post is about staying connected to people and to new ideas. Over the past two weeks, I have had conversations with several successful people about the challenge of maintaining their network of friends and colleagues. They all know the value of staying connected but the challenge is finding the available time.

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that the most valuable assets we have in life is the relationships we develop with people and the experiences and knowledge we gain throughout our lives. These assets are ours for life. They are not dependant on the job we have, or more frequently in today's world, the job we do not have at the time. However, we have more and more demands made on our time so we have less and less available time. But remember, that our days still consist of 24 hours. We do not have less time, we just have less available time. So how do we make time for staying connected not only to people but to new, fresh, and different ideas?

Well, in my opinion the first step is to reevaluate your priorities. Are you spending your time on the things you value most? Mike does a great discussion in our workshops about treating your family as your number one client. That technique is really about aligning your priorities with your allocation of time. But after you have done that, it is also about find effective and efficient ways to use your time.

Let's start with staying connected to people. In the discussions I have had recently, I mentioned that just sending a quick email that states you were thinking about the person and hope they are doing well. To each person that I suggested this their response was, "I do not want to send such a trite email to anyone." My response, "So you think it is better to not contact them at all? How will they even know you are thinking of them?" A quick email or quick call is better then no contact at all. Remember, they are just as busy and pressed for time as you are, so quick is good. The second thing I would mention is that people remember the smallest kindness. Be nice and caring to everyone and it will come back to you when you least expect it.

Now let's talk about staying connected to ideas and creative thinking. There are so many ways to stay connected to world and business events today that I could not list them all. The trick though is to see out ideas and thoughts that are different than yours. Instead of selecting a news channel or newspaper columnist because you usually agree with them, choose one because you usually disagree with them. One of two things will happen. You may find that you agree with them on more than you originally thought or even if it confirms your suspicion that you will disagree, you will understand the oppositions point of view better and can better prepare yourself to successfully debate the issue. Your brain can handle an infinite amount of information. Allow yourself access to dissenting views, expand your horizons and make your own decisions. You will be wiser and a more interesting individual, which will assist with the first point of connecting with people.

Relationships are not only fun but are vital to your career success. Invest in yourself and make the effort to stay connected to people and to new ideas. Share with us your ideas on how to use your time efficiently and effectively to stay connected.

Until Next Time,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Leaders are sometimes faced with a difficult situation where one of their direct reports behaves in a manner inconsistent with the culture and values of the company. For example, in a consulting firm, a key producer could might treat the employees who work for him/her poorly. The treatment may be inconsistent with the values of the company but, the key producer is important to the firm. There is a price to keep the key producer, but heretofore the price has not been considered too high.

But then the key producer starts to get arrogant about his/her behavior and the behavior causes more issues. The leader is now faced with a problem that must be addressed or will it? Remember, the key to leverage is being willing to accept any outcome. If the leader cannot accept losing the key producer, the leader will be relatively powerless to change that person's behavior. When push comes to shove, the leader can't accept losing this employee.

When we had our own firm, we used to identify our key flight risks. We would consider which of our top people might leave or might have to go away. We then put together a plan if that person had to leave immediately. This plan gave us the comfort to know that we could handle the departure of a key employee.

It also gave us the ultimate leverage in any negotiation with our people. We could handle the result of their departure. It wouldn't be our preferred result, but we could handle it. A leader must be able to handle the departure of key employees in order to effectively lead and maintain the values of the company.

Cheers, Mike

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This is what happens when you have 30 day bankruptcy. The WSJ reports that all is not going smoothly in Chrysler land. The management often spend its time trying to get out of bankruptcy not fixing the core business issues to ensure the company's viability.

The WSJ also reports that Chrysler's issues may be more difficult than the FIAT management may have understood. They must have noticed the issues that Daimler Chrysler and Cerberus had running Chrysler previously. This movie has just started and the outcome is in doubt. Just sit back, have some popcorn and watch. It should be interesting.

Cheers, Mike

Monday, September 14, 2009


One of our followers is selling his BMW convertible. This reminds me of a story about negotiating leverage. Twenty-five years ago I owned a Triumph Spitfire. For those of you who are not familiar with the Spitfire, it spent more time with the hood up then it did on the road. The time had finally come for the Spitfire to go away.

I put the car out with a 'for sale' sign. I was a reluctant seller of the car. I was asking $1800 and after a couple of days I had two parties who were interested in the car. So I scheduled them both for a fall Saturday. The car looked great and the hood was down. A college guy and his brother were scheduled first.

We took the car for a test drive and they decided they wanted the car. The older brother said, "Put our your hand." I put my hand out and he put 17 hundred dollar bills in my hand. "How does it feel?" I replied, "It feels one light." He said smugly, "It is $1700."

I replied, "I have someone coming this afternoon who wants the car." He said, "$1700 in hand is better than $1800 in the bush. And it is only $100 short." I decided to speed up the negotiations. "Actually it is $200 hundred short. I just raised the price to $1900."

The older brother looked surprised and said, "You can't do that!" "Of course I can, and I just did. If I were you, I would hurry. I am a heartbeat away from raising the price to $2,000." He pleaded, "Would you take the $1800?" "Well, I just raised it to $1900. But you seem like nice guys, I will give it to you for $1800." They gave me five twenties and I gave them the keys.

They were negotiating with no leverage. They really wanted the car. Ultimate leverage comes from being able to accept either outcome. I was truly indifferent whether I sold the car or not. They never had a chance.

Cheers, Mike

Friday, September 11, 2009


Really stellar job done by the much touted endowment investment groups of Harvard and Yale. For years the two schools have blown their own horns as to their investment acumen. David Swenson, Yale's investment office head, even wrote an investment book that was a big hit with the endowment and foundation crowd.

But Yale's and Harvard's 30% losses over the past year is even worse. First of all the year ended June 30. Many investors have recovered somewhat in the rebound since March. But not Yale and Harvard. Both institutions have a very low percentage of their portfolios in public equities and apparently a high percentage in illiquid investments. Investments which haven't rebounded and if they are in commercial real estate, still may go down. The Brown University story is also telling.

Clearly the endowments were entirely too illiquid. This wouldn't be so bad, but these universities used their endowments to fund significant portions of their operating budgets. So perversely, these schools, which still have multi-billion dollar budgets, have to resort to cost containment actions such as wage freezes, hiring freezes, cost and service cuts and capital expenditure deferments.

The losses are understandable given what has transpired over the past year, but the lack of liquidity given how much their annual operating budgets depended on the endowments is a little perplexing.

Cheers, Mike

Thursday, September 10, 2009


My wife has been seriously bitten by the golf bug. The other night she came home and had a rules question. I answered the question but she said the other players thought it was the wrong answer. So I went online to the and found the answer which backed me up. Thank you USGA, I knew I had to be right once this year.

On the way to the golf course today, I decided to pick up a copy of the rule book for my wife (I am such a big spender). I stopped by Golf Galaxy, seemed like a likely candidate to sell me a copy of the rules. I waited at the front desk to ask for a copy. While I waited, I saw that they sold lip balm, Advil (breakfast of champions), little bag watches, various faux climbing caribiners to hang stuff on a golf bag and other relatively useless items. Finally it was my turn, "Yes, I would like to buy a USGA rule book." I was met with the following reply, "We don't have any rulebooks." I chuckled to myself, you have all this crap (technical term) but you have no rulebooks. I said, "thank you, have a good day."

I live in Shopping Center USA, so I drove a par 5 away to Golfsmith. I went in and asked for a copy of the USGA rules. The salesperson said, "We may have some in the back." While I waited, I looked at the now usual lip balm, Advil, Heathcliff bars, Gatorade bars, some gizmo to put a line on golf balls and all sorts of other odd items. The salesperson came out and said, "We don't have rule books." I said, "Thank you, have a good day."

I then went to the club, hoping against hope for a rule book. I went into the pro shop and looked around. Hmmmm, no rule books hanging around. So I asked the young lady at the counter for a rule book. "Sorry, we don't have any rule books." Wow, is this for real or is this Candid Camera. But then the assistant pro cheerfully spoke up, "I have a rule book, you can have mine." I replied, "I don't want to take your rule book." He said, "I have another home, please take mine." And so I thankfully did.

It is really hard to follow the rules if you can't get a copy.

Cheers, Mike

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Women now drive the global economy controlling $20 trillion in annual consumer spending is the conclusion in an article in this month's Harvard Business Review entitled The Female Economy.

That global economic power should also mean increased opportunities for women in business and politics when we begin to come out of this global recession. There is a survey being conducted by The Boston Consulting Group on what women want and early results of the survey can be viewed at

Specifically, given the amount of government influence today and in the future around the world, women will need to hold a larger percentage of elected positions in order to have their voice and views influence legislation. In the USA, there is a group focused on helping women prepare for political office. Check out this website

Finally, check out this Forbes article You Want To Run For Office. Now What? The article is the story of a woman with no previous interest in politics that made the decision to run and won a seat in her state assembly.

Do you agree that more women need to run for public office?

Great to be back at the blog the day after Labor Day! Until Next Time,


Rich Karlgaard has an interesting commentary in Forbes on a leader's openness. He writes about how open a leader should be or not? My style was to be generally open. There were times though where as soon as I said something to our employees, I new I was too open. People don't need to know all the details of why a leader thinks, acts or speaks in a certain manner.

It is one thing to show you are human and totally another thing to leave people doubting you because you told them all your imperfections and fears. Everyone has to find what works for them. Here is hoping you think of what you want to share before you share it.

Cheers, Mike

Monday, September 7, 2009


Good to see that Ford was the lone US car manufacturer to benefit from the Cash for Clunkers Program. It is also clear that just because Chrylser and GM are out of bankruptcy, doesn't mean the companies are not still broken (technical term). According to Forbes in this article, GM and Chrysler's sales actually went down!

Yes, they have new balance sheets that make them potentially viable. But have the operations really been changed in a meaningful way to ensure their viability? Are they making cars that people actually want to buy? Well maybe GM has some cars in the oven that Americans will buy. But Chrysler? I can't see the FIAT cinquecento taking off in any meaningfull way. The Smart Car sized car will likely have limited appeal. I am a big fan of the recent styling of the Alfa Romeo, but really, how many of these will be sold?

Watch closely to see how GM and Chrysler do going forward. It should be interesting.

Cheers, Mike

Saturday, September 5, 2009


So, little Bernie is a page one topic again. This time however, the prime suspect is the SEC. The SEC's Inspector General issued a report that casts the SEC in a very poor light. This report can be viewed in its entirety at this link.

How could he do this volume of options?While this report will be covered in detail by the financial press, I want to focus on a hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, that decided to exit the Madoff funds several years ago because, they didn't like the answers they were getting and the answers they couldn't get. How was Bernie making such consistent returns? How could Bernie always be in cash just when he needed to be? The WSJ today has a good article on their decision. But is it the complete story on Ren Tech?

Check out this Zerohedge piece today which reads further into the SEC Inspector General's report and discovers that Ren Tech didn't take everything out of the Madoff funds and didn't disclose its suspicions to the SEC.

Many of the matters I worked on were covered by the financial press. One of our interns once said to me, "It was great working the summer on a matter that was in the business section every week. But I was very surprised how much was incomplete or wrong."

Good to bear this in mind when reading various financial pieces, including this blog!

Cheers, Mike


As Gail announced and I didn't, we are now back from our vacations. Why do two retired people need a vacation? Hmmm, hard to answer.

Starting today, we are back blogging on Leadership during times of financial crisis Monday thru Friday with bonus posts on the weekends.